Monday, January 25, 2016

A & J RESTAURANT (IRVINE, CA)

A&J Restaurant
14805 Jeffrey Rd #D
Irvine, CA 92618
http://aj-restaurant.com/
Tel: 949.786.3585
$ (under $15)
Cuisine: Taiwanese
Sat, 01/16/2016, 5:30pm Walk-in
    (4 Piglets)


On these rare cold, winter evenings in Southern California, I often crave for some comfort food. The feeling of something warm in my tummy generally makes me a very happy person. Fortunately in Irvine, there sits a restaurant that has since franchised straight from Taiwan. Known for their spicy beef noodle soup, A&J Restaurant is the epitome of comfort food.


The interior




A&J Restaurant contains a plethora of various noodle dishes. The d├ęcor has since been revamped to something a bit more modern since its opening over 15 years ago. And as for the wait time, expect a long one. The eatery is definitely a popular pick amongst Irvinians (if that is even a word).


SLICED PORK EARS WITH HOT AND SPICY SEASONING ($2.95): This is one of those appetizers that you either love or hate. It has a chewy texture that is similar to tripe. The flavors are well balanced with a hint of spice that hits the back of your throat. For only $3.00, why not?




CHINESE STYLE FRIED CHICKEN NOODLE SOUP ($8.55): The chicken that comes on the side is delicious. It's crispy and moist and reminds me of the Chinese fried pork chop but with chicken as the protein instead.


These are the noodles that come with the fried chicken noodle soup. The noodles are chewy but the broth itself is pretty bland. I think this would be perfect for anyone who is feeling under the weather.




SCALLION PANCAKE ($3.95): These pancakes were super dense and crispy. They were good but for $3.95, I'd rather just buy a frozen version and cook it on the stove myself (or make them on my own).



MY FAVORITE DISH. SPICY BEEF TENDON NOODLE SOUP ($9.25): This dish is so good. The spice level is perfect and hits you at all the right spots. The tendon is super tender and cooked well. The bok choy adds a nice vegetable to the dish and the noodles are chewy and filling. The perfect comfort food.     


Overall, A&J Restaurant delivers authentic Taiwanese cuisine without putting a dent in your wallet. It is affordable and tasty. There are a number of noodle soups I still have yet to try, but I always find myself going back to the beef noodle soup that they are known for. The only downfall is that their locations are in Asianville or the OC. Tip: It's cash only so bring those dollar bills with you!


Notable dishes: Spicy Beef Tendon Noodle Soup

Thursday, January 21, 2016

COMMONWEALTH (BURBANK, CA)

Commonwealth
222 S. Glenoaks Blvd
Burbank, CA 91502
http://restaurantcw.com/
Tel: 818.845.2225
$$$ ($30-$45)
Cuisine: American
Fri, 01/08/2016, 8:00pm reservation
    (4 Piglets)




Nestled deep in the city of Burbank sits a tapas restaurant serving dishes inspired by cuisine from around the world. The food is fresh and contemporary without being overly pretentious. It is probably one of the smallest restaurants I've been to in awhile. In lieu of being claustrophobic, the restaurant seems to be rather cozy and intimate.

Commonwealth only honors two seatings a night: 6:00pm or 6:30pm or 8:00pm or 8:30pm. The countertop is for walk-in patrons and they do not take reservations of parties exceeding 8.  


The interior
AMUSE BOUCHE


FRESH DAILY OYSTER...BY THE PIECE ($3.00): Tobasco, Ponzu Salsa, Cucumber Fennel Relish. Kusha oysters were served tonight and boy, were they extremely fresh and delicious. Perfectly briny and the perfect size, similar to Kumamoto oysters but slightly bigger. The Tobasco sauce had a good kick. The oysters were so good that we ordered another four more! One of the best dishes of the night!



MAINE LOBSTER AND TRUFFLE CROQUETTES ($15.00): Black Truffle, Lemon Beurre Blanc, Caviar. The croquettes were crisp with a delicate center. The lobster was succulent and the best part? The chefs were not flimsy when providing the amount of lobster to top each croquette. A good dish overall.



FRIED CHICKEN ($9.00): Salt and pepper fried, Cumin, Maple Dijon. The chicken reminded of the Taiwanese popcorn chicken you get at the cafes, except these were bigger. The chicken was moist and not at all greasy. They were extremely crispy and the sauce went perfectly well with the chicken: not too sweet with the right amount of acidity.


TRUFFLE MUSHROOM RISOTTO ($14.00): Mushroom Medley, Mascarpone, Truffle Butter. A really delicious dish that is well balanced and earthy from the mushrooms. I thought it was extremely satisfying and comfort food at its best. I enjoyed the creaminess and it was probably one of the better dishes of the night.


GRILLED OCTOPUS AND BRUSSELS ($14.00): Thai Vinaigrette, Fresh mint, Chile. The octopus was actually cooked superbly. It wasn't overly rubbery like how octopus can be when its overcooked. The Brussels were delicious and went well with the octopus. The sauce was amazing...acidic, sweet, tangy, and delicious.


NUESKE BACON AND BURRATA ($7.00): Onion compote, Grapefruit, Crispy leeks, Grilled Bread. This was probably my least favorite dish of the night. I'm a big fan of burrata and bacon, but for some reason, the dish with all the components were a tad bit much and didn't mesh well together.


The chefs having a good time ready to cook up a storm


MY FAVORITE DISH. BUTTERSCOTCH PUDDING ($8.00): House made whip, caramel, crisp prosciutto. This was so freakin amazing. The pudding was rich and complemented the salty and crispy prosciutto nicely. It's not your typical budino you would find at other restaurants. It's definitely creamier than most budinos you would find. Everything went well together and this was a perfectly constructed dessert.


Overall, Commonwealth is a gem in the Valley. It's hard to find spots like these and this place is definitely a bonus in the city of Burbank. Parking can be found across the restaurant at an automotive shop. The menu is perfectly constructed, whether you just want small bites or something substantial. The restaurant satisfies all palates alike.




Notable dishes: Butterscotch Pudding and Daily Oyster by the Piece



Friday, January 15, 2016

DINE LA RECOMMENDATIONS (JAN 18-31, 2016)

Restaurant week in Los Angeles is just around the corner! It is a perfect way to try those restaurants you've always wanted to try and revisit some of your favorites. The following are my top 3 participating restaurants I recommend checking out and 3 restaurants I want to try:

MY RESTAURANT WEEK RECOMMENDATIONS:

REDBIRD ($25-LUNCH)
OpenTable


Redbird is Chef Neal Fraser's restaurant offering contemporary dishes that are sophisticated and innovative. The food is delicious and the location itself is worth a visit. 

Order: Heritage Pork Tenderloin



SIMBAL ($39-DINNER)
OpenTable


Located in Little Tokyo, Simbal is one of those restaurants that brings you to Southeast Asia without having to take a plane across the Pacific. You are exposed to dishes that range from China, Thailand and Vietnam. Expect dishes that are bursting with flavor with a seasoned touch.


Order: Coconut Flan



POK POK LA ($15-LUNCH; $29-DINNER)
OpenTable




Chef Ricker transports you to Thailand with dishes that are authentic with others that exude his creativity. The ambiance is reminiscent of a pub in Thailand. The food is meant to be shared and is a bang for your buck!
Order: Chicken Khao Soi



MY RESTAURANT WEEK "WISHLIST"


POST AND BEAM
OpenTable


DRAGO CENTRO
OpenTable


Reservations to the participating restaurants mentioned can be made using OpenTable (and you'll receive points toward a future gift certificate). Any other restaurants you recommend I try? Let me know!


Monday, January 11, 2016

SUSHI ROKU (PASADENA, CA)

Sushi Roku
33 Miller Alley
Pasadena, CA 91103
http://www.innovativedining.com/restaurants/sushiroku
Tel: 626.683.3000
$$$ ($30-$45)
Cuisine: Japanese
Tues, 12/29/2015, 7:00pm reservation
    (4 Piglets)



Sushi Roku is a restaurant providing contemporary Japanese cuisine with a hint of innovation. The restaurant combines ingredients that are traditional to Japan fused with elements from around the globe. The menu is not limited to sushi, but rather dishes that are geared toward the palate of Westerners. If you haven't been exposed to traditional sushi but would like to take that leap to start, this is an ideal place to do so. Sushi Roku eases your way by incorporating raw fish with non-traditional Japanese ingredients.

Located in an alleyway in the heart of Old Town Pasadena, the restaurant has a modern ambiance. It is tranquil, yet sophisticated at its best. There is a great happy hour menu as well as a bar where you can witness the sushi chefs in action.

The interior
Another view of the interior main dining room
I forget the name of this drink but it was mighty tasty. 
MIXED VEGETABLE TEMPURA ($11.00): I know. Tempura is simplistic and found at most Japanese restaurants. When done right, it could leave you craving for more. That evening, I was craving for something crunchy and long behold, tempura was on the menu. The delicate vegetables were fried to perfection. It was delicious and withheld its crunch without absorbing the oil. 

MY FAVORITE DISH. FLUKE KUMQUAT SASHIMI ($18.00): Yuzu Vinaigrette. OMG. This was extremely tasty. The fluke was fresh and delicate. The yuzu vinaigrette had the perfect amount of acidity. The dish was balanced with a delicate level of sweetness. Overall, the dish was refreshing. 

JAPANESE FRIED CHICKEN "TATSUTA-AGE" ($10.00): This is a decent batch of fried chicken. I wouldn't say it's the best thing on the menu (we already established that with the fluke), but it satisfies your cravings if you wanted fried chicken to begin with. The chicken was moist with a nice, crisp skin. 

SALMON SASHIMI AND CILANTRO ($18.00): Ponzu olive oil. They piled on the cilantro with this one! The salmon was delicious and I loved the ponzu olive oil. They complemented each other well. 

TUNA JALAPENO ($18.00): Spicy tuna topped with tuna sashimi , yuzu olive oil. I liked this roll. I'm usually not a roll type of girl and much prefer sashimi and nigiri, but this was pretty good. I liked the kick from the jalapeno and I definitely didn't need any soy sauce to my dish. 

UNI UDON ($19.00): Japanese style sea urchin pasta. This was my least favorite dish. The sauce reminded me of an alfredo sauce and the udon wasn't udon but rather fettuccine. The uni was good but it did lack flavor and wasn't seasoned well. 

MAKOTO ($17.50): Yellowtail, shrimp tempura, seared tuna, spicy creamy sauce. This was my least favorite roll of the two. I think I much prefer something fresh and although the spicy sauce was good, it just overpowered the dish. However, I do think that this would be a great dish for those who have not been exposed to raw fish. 

DESSERT. We had complimentary dessert that consisted of a bread pudding with bananas and ice cream. Enough said.


Overall, the food was solid and the service was impeccable. My only complaint was the wait time to receive the dishes, but they apologized and made up for it with dessert. I did, however, appreciate the staggering of plates as it can be a bit overwhelming if all the dishes came out at once. Sushi Roku is a decent place to get your sushi fix. There are multiple locations, so find the closest location nearest you. 

Notable dishes: Fluke Kumquat Sashimi

And check out my video below: 


Tuesday, January 5, 2016

VIDEO OF WAFFLES DE LIEGE


Waffles de Liege
21 E. Holly Street
Pasadena, CA 91101

www.wafflesdeliege.com
Tel: 626.793.7726
$ (under $15)
Cuisine: Desserts/Waffles


Hey everyone! Check out my video review on Waffles De Liege!



Monday, January 4, 2016

15 OF THE BEST DISHES OF 2015

So I've eaten at many spots, reviewed many places, and it was quite a difficult task to narrow down 15 of the best bites/dishes I've had in 2015. Somehow, I've managed to do so and now it's time to recollect some of my favorite dishes. Below are my top 15 dishes I've had in 2015 (in no particular order). 

THE BEST 15 DISHES OF 2015

1. BONE IN RIB OF HEREFORD PRIME FOR 2 c. 1830 (£78.00):Mushroom ketchup and triple cooked chips. This was the best prime rib I've ever had in my life: perfectly marbled fat and perfectly cooked. The beef is cooked over wood and charcoal embers to give the prime rib a smokey flavor. The prime rib melted in my mouth with every bite. Triple cooked chips accompanied the dish. The chips were perfectly crispy on the outside and delicate on the inside. This is the only way chips should be cooked from now on! Dip the chips in the mushroom ketchup and/or the beef sauce rendered from the fat to get the perfect pairing. I ordered a side of carrots and caraway for an extra £4.75 to make this meal complete. The carrots were good but unnecessary. The beef and chips were fine just on their own.  


Dinner by Heston Blumenthal, Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park
66 Knightsbridge, London SW1X 7LA
www.dinnerbyheston.comTel: +44 020 7201 3833

2. SHIIZAKANA(NOT BOUND BY TRADITION, THE CHEF'S CHOICE DISH): Spaghettini with abalone, pickled cod, roe, Burgundy truffles. This dish was absolutely amazing. I mean...it's just spaghetti right? But it's some revamped spaghetti with some bold flavors. The truffles added a bit of earthiness to the dish. The roe gave a bit of the saltiness and the abalone a bit of texture. Comprehensively, it was heaven in your mouth and I was left wanting a big bowl of it. That's when you know you had something good. 


n/naka, 3455 S. Overland Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90034, www.n-naka.comTel: 310.836.6252

3. CARAMEL COPPETTA ($10.00): With marshmallow sauce and salted spanish peanuts. Everything that you would want in a dessert is sitting right here in this caramel coppetta. It's creamy, rich, crispy, crunchy, sweet and salty. The marshmallow sauce gives it that ooey, gooey texture that you could have ever dreamed about. One bite of this dessert, and you'll be hooked! 


Pizzeria Mozza, 641 N. Highland Ave., Los Angeles, CA 90036, www.pizzeriamozza.comTel: 323.297.0101

4. BLACK TRUFFLEExplosion, romaine, parmesan. This dish was so good. Imagine that soup dumpling you get at Din Tai Fung  and multiply that taste by 100x and this is what you get. Unfortunately, it literally is only one bite that is served to you. I wish I could get more than one piece of this masterpiece. So divine. 


Alinea, 1723 North Halsted, Chicago, IL 60614
www.alinearestaurant.comTel: 312.867.0110

5. BACON CHEDDAR BUTTERMILK BISCUITS ($6.00): Maple Butter. This is by far one of the best biscuits I've ever had. The crisp exterior was perfect to the moist, crumbly soft interior. It was savory in all aspects provided by the bacon and the maple butter was the ideal complement. I think I could eat a dozen by myself, but unfortunately, an order comes with only two. 

Manhattan Beach Post, 1142 Manhattan Ave., Manhattan Beach, CA 90266
www.eatmbpost.comTel: 310.545.5405

6. EN TUAN (HOT POT: $13.95): Spicy and sour soup with beef tendon, bean sprouts and beef slices. I seriously dream about this soup day in and day out after I had my first taste. The broth was full of flavor....bold, luxurious with a lot of depth. Hints of garlic can be tasted in the soup that was seasoned well. The tendon was perfectly cooked with the best texture that ever was put forth in soup. I could slurp this forever and never get sick of it! Thank goodness we got a bowl. It was more than enough for a group of four and the fire in the middle definitely kept the soup hot. We asked for a spice level of 5 and could not taste any spiciness unfortunately (maybe we just have a high tolerance). 

Lotus of Siam, 953 E. Sahara Ave, Ste A5, Las Vegas, NV 89104
www.saipinchutima.comTel: 702.735.3033


7. CAVATELLI ALLA NORCINA ($29.00): Ricotta dumplings, housemade pork sausage, black truffles, grana padano. Salty and savory sausage mixed with the earthiness of black truffles in a voluptuous sauce. The truffles added a nice touch and the cavatelli was perfectly al dente. I think I'm in heaven. 

Bestia, 2121 7th Place, Los Angeles, CA 90021
www.bestiala.comTel: 213.514.5724

8. FOIE GRAS: Pear, endive brioche. You know somewhere on my list, there had to be a foie gras dish. The one at Maude was definitely one of my favorites of the year. As soon as the foie gras hit the grill, the aroma of the liver permeates throughout the restaurant. It is a smell so appealing that your mouth begins to salivate. The foie gras is nicely seared on the outside, seasoned well, and melts in your mouth. The texture was perfect. The burnt brioche complemented the foie gras well and did not relinquish a bitter charcoal taste. This was an extraordinary dish and the intricate detail was outstanding. 

Maude, 212 S. Beverly Drive, Beverly Hills, CA 90212
www.mauderestaurant.comTel: 310.859.3418

9. #19. PASTRAMI, SWISS CHEESE AND COLE SLAW WITH RUSSIAN STYLE DRESSING ($16.95): O.M.G. Did I just die and die again? The rye bread was nice and moist. The hot pastrami with the cold cole slaw was a subtle yet soothing temperature change to the palate. The pastrami itself is juicy, rich, tender and with a good amount of fat. And the dressing? Well, its their concoction of thousand island. The pickle that accompanies the sandwich had a mild taste and wasn't overpowering. This is probably one of the best 
sandwiches in Los Angeles, if not, in Southern California. 

Langer's Deli, 704 S. Alvarado St., Los Angeles, CA 90057
www.langersdeli.comTel: 213.483.8050

10. IKE'S VIETNAMESE FISH SAUCE WINGS ($15.50-available in spicy): Half dozen fresh whole natural chicken wings marinated in fish sauce and sugar, deep fried, tossed in caramelized Phu Quoc fish sauce and garlic and served with Vietnamese salad. These wings are absolutely amazing. Who would've thought a cook of the restaurant would be the man behind creating one of Pok Pok's signature dishes. So much flavor packed into these little wings. It was a little on the "fishier" end than how I remembered them to be in Portland, but good nonetheless. The garlic and caramelized fish sauce gave the dish depth and richness. I just wish there was more! 

Pok Pok LA, 978 N Broadway, Los Angeles, CA 90012
www.pokpokla.comTel: 213.613.1831

11. EGG CAVIAR: Soft poached egg, lemon creme fraiche, American caviar. This luscious creation was simply, well, orgasmic. The construction of this dish is a masterpiece served in its egg shell (be careful, it can break on you and cause an accident on the tablecloth...).  The egg was nicely poached, the creme fraiche had a light citrus flavor and the caviar was delicious. Served with a crispy biscuit, this salty and creamy dish was full of flavor and perfectly balanced.  It's a signature dish on the menu. 

Melisse, 1104 Wilshire Blvd., Santa Monica, CA 90401
www.melisse.comTel: 310.395.0881

12. CRAB SCRAMBLE ($18.00): Pickled shallot, creme fraiche, espelette, dill and toast. At first glance, you think nothing of this dish. But then your world changes when you take that first bite. The crab was fresh and the scramble was buttery with a creamy and rich texture.  I'm pretty sure they used a crap load of butter, but who the freak cares? The toast was good and complemented the crab scramble well but seriously, the main star was that scramble. I could eat this every morning! One of the best brunch dishes I've had by far. 

The Publican, 837 W Fulton Market, Chicago, IL 60607
www.thepublicanrestaurant.comTel: 312.733.9555

13. Char Siu Tsukemen ($13.95): Tsukemen topped with Char Siu (slices of barbecued pork). Directions: Squeeze the lime over the noodles, take a small amount of noodles and place into the dipping sauce/broth, and enjoy! Deliciously perfect noodles cooked al-dente accompanied by luscious, melt in your mouth pork. The egg is cooked to a skillful texture. The dipping sauce is savory and thick, coating the noodles with a flawless consistency. The lime adds an acidity that complements and enhances the flavor. 

Tsujita LA Artisan Noodle, 2057 Sawtelle Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90025
www.tsujita-la.comTel: 310.231.7373

14. DOUBLE DOUBLE COMBO ($6.80): Double meat and double cheese with onion, fries and a drink. This is one of the best burgers around. How could I not include this staple for SoCal eaters in my list? It's cheap, simple and simply delicious. The iceberg lettuce offers a crisp crunch to the already perfect bun: patty ratio. The sauce, oh man, I can't get enough of it to the point where I ask for the spread packets so I can dip my fries in them. Downright good. Plain and simple. 

In-N-Out, Various Locations throughout Southern California
www.in-n-out.comTel: 800-786-1000

15. PUBLICAN BACON ($7.00): How could I not end off with bacon; afterall, I am Piglet Nancy. Burton's maple syrup braised bacon. Look at this. Have you seen anything more beautiful? I seriously love this bacon. Forget that thin piece of flimsy bacon that's served in most diners. This is how bacon should be served. It's thick, it's porky, its fatty, it's sweet and it's salty. Everything a bacon should be. 

The Publican, 837 W Fulton Market, Chicago, IL 60607
www.thepublicanrestaurant.comTel: 312.733.9555

So there you have it! These are my top 15 dishes of 2015. Some are new bites I've never had and some are classic bites that never get old. Nevertheless, all are good, tasty and oink-a-licious!